Teething pain in babies is hard for everyone, most of all your poor little one! Here are some natural teething remedies that work, plus a few we avoid.
Like many kids, I had braces in high school. It was such a horrible and painful experience – feeling like my teeth were slowly being ripped out of my mouth. Then there were the routine tightenings – oi, those hurt! I also had eight teeth pulled in preparation for the braces. (And oh man – I can still feel the freezing medicine injection going into my gums. *shudder*.)
Then as if that wasn’t enough, just before I began my last year of high school, I underwent major jaw surgery. They broke both jaws and repositioned them, using permanent titanium screws and plates to secure them. It was definitely one of the hardest experiences of my life.
Needless to say, I know a thing or two about mouth/jaw/teeth pain.
Thus, when my babies are teething, I have sympathy. Heaps of it.
We have four kids and each one of them has had a rough time with teething. I’ve heard some mamas say that their baby popped out a new tooth with nary a whine or fuss – but let me tell you: that selection was unavailable when I placed my baby order (ha) so teething is always a dramatic time around here.
By this point, we’ve tried pretty well everything out there, it seems. I thought I’d share a few of my favourite natural teething remedies with you!
Natural Teething Remedies That Work
1. Cold or frozen foods
Pickles, carrots, apple slices, frozen peas, etc. Give them cold, straight from the fridge (don’t use this one when baby has a top and bottom tooth because little pieces could be bitten off and become choking hazards). This is a good choice for while they cut their first tooth, and obviously – under close supervision.
If you’re nervous about the choking hazards, a mesh feeder is a great option. This one comes with a silicone spoon, which you could also use as a teething toy. Silicone is a non-toxic material that’s safe for babies.
2. Homeopathic medicines (gel, tablets, liquids, etc)
The two most well-known makers of homeopathic, natural teething remedies are Boiron and Hyland’s. Camilia by Boiron has been one of the most effective for us, but it has depended on the child as to how effective it is. I find it works best for mild to medium-level of teething, but it doesn’t usually touch the all-out misery level. Hyland’s teething tablets have been less successful for us, but we’ve tried them with each kid anyway.
We have tried the Hyland’s Gel (applied straight to the gums) but I won’t buy it again because I’ve discovered there are undesirable ingredients – like parabens – in it.
3. Vanilla extract
The real stuff, not the imitation. Check your label (or make your own!). The tiny amount of alcohol (vanilla extract is made with vodka) provides a numbing relief. Just apply a tiny bit with your finger.
Use this one at your own risk – it’s pretty controversial due to the fact that it’s made out of vodka. However – personally, I’m less concerned about a teeny-tiny drop of alcohol than I am about the nasty sugars, artificial flavours and dyes, and preservatives that are found in infant tylenol, motrin, and other similar medicines.
4. Cold/frozen cloth
Dip it in strongly-made chamomile tea and freeze it. Chamomile is a wonderful herb that has calming effects. We have an organic cotton teething toy called a Ringley, and I done it with that, and also with a regular washcloth.
5. Sophie the giraffe
This toy, invented in France nearly 50 years ago, and is made from 100% rubber, with safe food-grade paint. It has been a hit with all four of my kids. The shape of the toy is perfect for tiny hands to grip and gnaw, and its rubbery bounce provides the perfect amount of pressure on baby’s sore gums.
6. Your finger
If in a bind, your finger is always accessible, easy to clean, and nice and soft to chew on. Plus then you can feel how many teeth are in, and far up they’ve come. It sounds way too simple, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
Another natural material, wood is a worry-free option for gnawing and gumming. It’s also a little bit soft (depending on the type of wood), which is nice for baby. We prefer to use untreated and unpainted wood items.
You don’t necessarily need to buy special teething toys for this – younger siblings in our family have often drooled/gnawed on our unpainted wooden blocks, or other wooden items.
8. Amber or hazelwood necklace
We had one of these gifted to us by friends who use one on their own babies. Some claim that they work wonders. I’ve had mixed results – it’s hard to measure and know for sure. It has worked better for some of my babies than others – but it’s a completely harmless way to attempt to reduce the pain, at the very least.
9. Essential oil remedies
There are all kinds of essential oil remedies circulating out there to treat inflammation and pain, but you do need to be careful what you use on babies as not all are safe for little ones.
The essential oil advice especially will vary depending on who you talk to. There’s a wide range of opinions out there. Not to knock MLM/direct sales in and of itself (I have many friends who run wonderful businesses with MLM opportunities) but I must say that in the essential oil world in particular – you’ll probably find that the essential oil MLM reps are typically very liberal with their recommendations and usage. Using EO’s Safely is a good non-MLM site to consult for EO information if you’d like to compare notes. Here’s her page on teething. (She doesn’t recommend the use of clove oil, however I’ve used it on occasion – see next paragraph for more.)
I use an essential oil roll-on blend (diluted, as always) very sparingly. It includes clove oil, chamomile, and lavender. I use it as a natural teething remedy when we’re in the absolute worst stage, and personally, I’m more comfortable with the small risks involved than I am with the risks associated with infant Tylenol. or Motrin, which is our absolute last resort.
10. Prayer, and a hefty dose of patience
I’m guessing (hoping) that I’m not the only one who gets grouchy easily when the baby just Won’t Stop Fussing. It grates your nerves after a while, you know? A baby that is super fussy and whiny due to teething, not sleeping well, etc. usually requires extra doses of patience, and lots of prayer sent up, for both baby and mama.
Take some time for self-care in these days/weeks to help yourself make it through to the other side. (You WILL make it through – I promise!) Honestly – keeping yourself calm and patient is half the battle.
11. Change of scenery/distraction
Sometimes, the only thing that worked when we were all about to go crazy was to just get out of the house. Go for a walk, go for a play date, go to the library. Or invite someone over. Anything for a change of pace! (These last two tips are not for baby, but teething survival is a team effort!)
(Un)natural Teething Remedies We Avoid
1. Tylenol (acetaminophen)
We have used pharmaceutical pain relievers sparingly, but we avoid as much as we possibly can due to 1) their gross ingredients (a shot of corn syrup for my 6-month-old infant? Ew!) and 2) the associated toxicity dangers. (Source)
2. Teething gels
Most teething gels on the market contain benzocaine, a numbing agent. Most parents assume that these are safe, since they’re legally sold and marketed for babies.
However, the FDA has recently stated: “Benzocaine products should not be used on children less than two years of age, except under the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional“.
3. Joining the grouching
It’s probably pretty obvious to all of us, but sometimes it takes a real concerted effort to remain calm and not spiral into a pity party (I should say, I TRY to avoid this one, but don’t always succeed!)
4. Plastic teething toys
Due to the many concerns with the toxicity of plastics, I’d rather avoid them altogether instead of finding out down the road that they’ve banned yet another ingredient in plastic toys that babies are sucking and chewing on all day long. Life Without Plastic says “You may wish to seriously consider your – and especially your children’s – use of plastics numbered 1, 3, 6 and 7 (polycarbonate), all of which have been shown to leach dangerous chemicals. This does not necessarily mean the others are completely safe, just that they have been studied less to date”
Silicone, organic cotton, and wood are all great alternatives!
What do you use for natural teething remedies?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional, and this post should not be taken as medical advice. Please do your own research. Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.